Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) has been used as a therapeutic intervention for dysphagia. However, the therapeutic effects of NMES lack supporting evidence. In recent years, NMES combined with traditional swallowing therapy has been used to improve functional recovery in patients with post-stroke dysphagia. This study aimed to investigate the effects of effortful swallowing combined with neuromuscular electrical stimulation on hyoid bone movement and swallowing function in stroke patients. Fifty stroke patients with mild dysphagia who were able to swallow against the resistance applied by using NMES and cooperate actively in training were included. This study was designed as a 6-week single-blind, randomised, controlled study. In the experimental group, two pairs of electrodes were placed horizontally in the infrahyoid region to depress the hyoid bone. The NMES intensity was increased gradually until the participants felt a grabbing sensation in their neck and performed an effortful swallow during the stimulation. In the placebo group, the same procedure was followed except for the intensity, which was increased gradually until the participants felt an electrical sensation. All participants underwent this intervention for 30 min per session, 5 sessions per week, for 6 weeks. Videofluoroscopic swallowing studies (VFSS) were carried out before and after the intervention and kinematics of the hyoid bone and swallowing function were analysed based on the VFSS. The experimental group revealed a significant increase in anterior and superior hyoid bone movement and the pharyngeal phase of the swallowing function. This intervention can be used as a novel remedial approach in dysphagic stroke patients.
Keywords: dysphagia; effortful swallowing; hyoid bone; kinematics; stroke.
© 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.